Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Route 106

Route 106 didn't go that way in '89. It does now.
Connecticut Route 106 winds from its beginning at US 1 and Interstate 95 in Stamford (near the headquarters of WWE, for you wrestling fans) through New Canaan into Wilton, where it ends at route 53. You can learn more about it at Kurumi.com.

It's a route number that I've been on many times, especially the parts around Stamford and New Canaan. I don't use the stretch between New Canaan and Wilton as much, because I never had the need, but there was one day I specifically remember being on it.

March 17, 1989. St. Patrick's Day.

It was a Friday, and I needed to do some shopping for a birthday present for Sean's mother. After finishing work in Rye Brook, NY, I decided I would go to Danbury Fair Mall before picking her up. I felt like I had some time on my hands, so I could take one of my interesting drives.

I hit the Hutchinson River Parkway, which becomes the Merritt Parkway once you enter Connecticut. Then I decided to take 106 from the Merritt to US 7 in Wilton. I found how 106 twists and turns from one road to another (including parts of Wilton, such as Belden Hill Road, that it no longer uses).

Once I reached US 7, I went straight to Danbury, did my shopping, moved onto picking up Sean's mother and proceeding with the night. I kind of wanted a quiet night, but she wanted to go out and at least take a drive. I felt like I hadn't seen my dad in some time, and a night at home would be nice. She won.

I had last seen Pop on Wednesday morning, when I let Bandit, my cat, out. My father was eating his breakfast in the kitchen, leaning on the counter as he always did. We exchanged looks, not even a word, and I went back to bed.

Dinner was nothing special, after all I was 20 and working in a mail room for General Foods. So it was Denny's in Newburgh, NY. From there we took a drive down US 9W from Newburgh to the Bear Mountain Bridge and got back to her house around 11 or so. Her father - never one to meet us - told me to get home.

I thought it was my nearly 93-year-old grandfather in Florida. He would die six weeks later.

I came home to cars in the driveway and garage as normal, but an empty house. A phone call produced the answer: my father was dead at 59 of a heart attack.

I've told the stories before. So much of the events after are crystal clear. Making phone calls. Watching college basketball all night before getting an hour or two of sleep.

I've talked about him here. Soft. Caring. Hard. Flawed. Strong. Great-hearted. Determined. Stubborn. The greatest smile. All among the tons of descriptions.

I carry the hurt of 3/17/89 in my heart everyday. I wish I could figure out why. I wish I could figure out how to truly get past it. I stand at attention during every national anthem, not moving until the last note is over. He hated the disrespect shown. He didn't like those who began to move or applaud before the last note. Heck, I struggle to move when I need to adjust a commercial during a broadcast.

Do like Orioles or Darien fans do, and insert yourself into the song? Oh no. No, no, no.

I still subtly point to the sky after that last note every time. That's for him.

With his parents, 1957.

St. Patrick's Day is still a day of bittersweet feelings. I want to smile and laugh and celebrate. I want to do something good to honor it create happy memories. Some years it's easy or happenstance. I was in Disney World one year. I was driving to Stratford-upon-Avon, England another year. I was out laughing and enjoying a frosty beverage with friends on another. I had dinner in Little Italy with my cousin and Sean and extended family member Brittany for yet another (yes, Italian food. Funny.)

Yet that same year, I knew things were changing uptown, and indeed I would be in a whole different relationship status a few weeks later. So it goes.

I love keeping my father's memory alive. I tell stories and I'm sure I've made a few of you say "Oh please shut up about him" from time to time. Again, so it goes.

I love seeing that son has picked up those eyes and that smile. It's a wonderful thing handed from grandfather to father to son.

My would be 85 now.

With some goofy kid, early 1970's.
I've had the reason to drive that stretch of Connecticut Route 106 a few times recently due to working in both New Canaan and Wilton. Just last week, I had to use it to get to a basketball game at Wilton High School. Because I don't drive it frequently, and because it was early March, the memories of that night, and of my dad, flooded my brain.

It's just a road of course. Yet when one of the very foundations of the connection between father and son is roads, and the countless hours we spent driving between New York and Florida, along with multiple other trips, it can begin to make a little more sense.

I'll wear some green today. Perhaps I'll have a drink to toast a man who never drank an alcoholic beverage in my life. I'll broadcast a basketball game later, and that will make me happy.

Then it will be March 18. St. Patrick's Day will be over. The Quiet Man won't be on TV. The beer, bagels, and everything won't be green (at least not on purpose).

Another day will begin, Spring will be here soon, and Route 106 will be just that.

Happy St. Patrick's Day.


No comments: